Volumes have been written about the “Self.” Of course, the use of the lower case self (myself, yourself) or the use of self– in a hyphenated word is ubiquitous in our language: self-important; self-motivated; self-sufficient; self-indulgent; self-examination; self-support; self-confident; self-efficacy; self-determination; self-deprecating; self-evident; and even selfish. The list goes on.
Understandably, the field of psychology is saturated with terms like self-esteem, self-actualization, false self, higher self, self-control, self-awareness, self-concept, self-object, self-perception, self-knowledge, and self-worth. Indeed, in modern psychology, self eventually earned its own school of thought in Self-Psychology. And as the field of psychology spanned religion, spirituality, and phenomenology, self was thus converted or amplified to a higher plane of knowledge and understanding—hence, the capitalized Self. Carl Jung, and the Jungian disciples that followed, viewed the higher Self as an archetype: a coherent, unifying whole that encompassed both conscious and unconscious elements of a larger unifying dynamic of Psyche. Sounds a little self-absorbed, eh?
Starting in the early 20th century, artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque introduced a revolutionary style of art we know today as Cubism. A great many Cubist “portraits” evoke visions of fragmentation, disunity, contradictory facets, piece-meal and exaggerated features, motley color motifs, and so on. Historically, Cubism repudiated not only 18th and 19th century portraiture, it introduced a new visual lexicon of its time and a new way of seeing and expressing the self as something un-standard, disturbing, amusing, abundantly muddied, and defying. From Cubism we can learn that the self is truly not one thing nor is it simply a compilation of elements. It is elusive, unstable, multi-dimensional, and wholly human in its mystery and complexity.